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EASTERHOUSE (Buy CDs by this artist)
In Our Own Hands EP (UK London) 1985
Contenders (Rough Trade/Columbia) 1986
Inspiration EP (UK Rough Trade) 1986
Waiting for the Redbird (Rough Trade/Columbia) 1989

Easterhouse's original incarnation — a Manchester quintet led by argumentative brothers Andy (vocals/lyrics) and Ivor (guitar) Perry — turned strident leftist rhetoric into bracing, cathartic music before predictably imploding over ideological conflicts. The band's demise was a shame, since Easterhouse seemed well on its way towards perfecting a brand of explicitly political rock that compromised neither music nor message.

The four-track In Our Own Hands is a commanding debut, bursting with musical energy and topical fervor. Inspiration examines the troubles in Northern Ireland with convincing passion, while giving Ivor a convincing framework for his spidery guitar lines. Two Inspiration numbers — the title song and "Nineteen Sixty Nine" — later showed up on Easterhouse's longplay debut.

Contenders, Easterhouse's abortive shot at US success, almost makes good on the band's lofty goals. Their lyrical concerns are compelling and clear without falling prey to sloganeering or anthem-mongering. The music is both melodic and muscular, lending authority to Andy's regret-tinged broadsides. Songs like "Out on Your Own," "To Live Like This" and "Cargo of Souls" vilify various institutions (including England's Labour Party) without losing sight of the human cost of governmental oppression. (The English CD adds two songs not on the American LP or CD.)

Ruminations on the contradictions inherent in a revolutionary communist band's affiliation with a multinational entertainment megalith were put on hold when Easterhouse's initial lineup fell apart not long after Contender's US release. Ivor Perry and drummer Gary Rostock briefly (one single on UK Rough Trade) reemerged in a new band called the Cradle, with ex-Aztec Camera/Smiths guitarist Craig Gannon.

Andy Perry, meanwhile, held onto the Easterhouse name and released Waiting for the Redbird, a virtual solo album whose slick, processed studio sound couldn't be further from the five piece's bare-wires approach. Perry's lyrics remain singleminded and lucid enough for his extremism to be intermittently compelling. Ultimately, though, without a commanding musical identity to match his exhortations, the one-dimensional dogma rings hollow. Wicked Irony Department: Redbird's anthemic "Come Out Fighting" was briefly adopted as an all-purpose go-for-it anthem by unsuspecting American TV sports programs.

[Scott Schinder]